Worsening EU-Russia relations may dash Mogherini's hopes of EU foreign policy post

The suspected shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine could have a direct impact on who becomes the EU's next foreign policy chief.

By Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson is Managing Editor of The Parliament Magazine

18 Jul 2014

Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini was seen as the clear frontrunner for the post of EU high representative going into Tuesday's special summit in Brussels earlier this week.

However, growing opposition to Mogherini from several eastern European member states over her lack of experience as well as her alleged 'closeness' to Russia saw talks break down without a decision.

Peter Spiegel, the Brussels-based reporter for the Financial Times, suggests that the MH17 crash "could be a further blow" to Mogherini's hopes and quotes an Italian EU insider as saying, “It certainly doesn’t help. At this point relations with Russia are just going to get worse and unless Federica comes out criticising Moscow she’s going to face mounting opposition from countries currently backing Italy.”

With several EU member states calling for a robust response and tougher sanctions against Moscow in the immediate aftermath of Thursday's MH17 crash, Mogherini's pro Russian ties are likely to work against her

With several EU member states calling for a robust response and tougher sanctions against Moscow in the immediate aftermath of Thursday's MH17 crash, Mogherini's pro Russian ties are likely to work against her.

Incoming European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also looked to be dashing Mogherini's hopes as he pressed Bulgaria's prime minister to put forward EU humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva's name for the role

The recent backroom deal between Europe's socialist and centre-right families that saw Juncker propelled into the commission president role will also play a key part in the negotiations for the remaining top jobs, including that of EU foreign policy chief.

With the acceptance that the foreign policy post should go to someone with a Social Democrat affiliation, Georgieva, coming from the centre-left political family could also be out of the running.

However, a possible deal that guarantees the other top job, that of EU council president, to a socialist contender such as Denmark's Helle Thorning-Schmidt could see the popular Georgieva pushed through as a compromise candidate.

Despite insisting that she isn’t looking to take on the post of council president, the Danish prime minister is still seen as the most likely successor to Herman Van Rompuy. A socialist and a former MEP, Thorning-Schmidt appears to have broad support within the European council.

France, however, thinks differently and is leading a campaign against her because Denmark is not a member of the single currency eurozone. However, either the council presidency job or the foreign affairs chief post has to go to a social democrat, so, despite Hollande’s protests, Thorning-Schmidt is still seen as a good bet.

The next few weeks are likely to see an intense round of phone diplomacy for Jean-Claude Juncker as he attempts to pick up the pieces. Juggling national and political sensitivities and appeasing heavyweight egos

The next few weeks are likely to see an intense round of phone diplomacy for Jean-Claude Juncker as he attempts to pick up the pieces. Juggling national and political sensitivities and appeasing heavyweight egos.

Trying to broker portfolio allocations for a new college of commissioners without knowing who will fill the foreign policy role will surely test Juncker's legendary ‘behind the scenes’ negotiating skills to the full.

Whatever the final result, it looks likely that at least one woman will end up in either the foreign policy or council presidency post when EU leaders reconvene on 30 August, thus going some way towards fulfilling Juncker's call for more women in the new college of commissioners.

One post that so-far seems to be moving forward without controversy is that of eurogroup president, which, despite grumblings from France, is expected to go to Spanish finance minister Luis de Guindos.

Read the most recent articles written by Brian Johnson - Claudia Marinetti Interview: Positive Thinking

Share this page